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Second series of articles The Prophet’s wives
Autor: Dr. Safvet Halilović
Objavljeno: 16. Dec 2008. 16:12:42

By Prof. dr. Safvet HALILOVIC
Ibn Hisham, one of the earliest biographers of the Prophet s.a.w.s., states that the total number of women whom the Prophet of Allah married was 13. With two of them he did not consummate the marriage, and therefore they do not have the status of Mothers of the believers. [9] Two of his wives passed away during his lifetime, and they were Khadija Bint Khuwaylid and Zainab Bint Huzaima, also known as Ummul-Masaakiin (The protector of the poor). Consequently, he left behind 9 wives, while eleven of them enjoyed the status of Mothers of the believers. As we continue, we will present briefly the essential biographical evidence on the wives of the Prophet of Allah, s.a.w.s.
1. Khadija bint Khuwailid was the first of the Prophet’s wives. Before marrying the Prophet, Khadija had been in marriage twice. At the time when Allah’s Prophet married her she was 40, and he was no older than 25. That convincingly says that his only motive to marry Khadija was not satisfaction of bodily desire, but also something else, and that was her honor and widely recognized intelligence. She bore to the Prophet all his children except Ibrahim. [10] In mutual love, understanding and compassion, the two spent their best years. Due to extraordinary virtues which characterized Khadija, r.a. as a wife and mother, as well as her enormous care for the Prophet, she was enjoying his special love and respect. Even after her death (in the tenth year of his prophethood) the Prophet was still cherishing that love and keeping her memory till the end of his life. In the traditions recorded in the relevant works on Hadith it is stated that the Prophet s.a.w.s. frequently mentioned Khadija. The prominent authoriy in Hadith Imam Ibn Abdul Barr said: “It’s been narrated through numerous traditions that the Prophet s.a.w.s. addressed his first wife on one occasion as follows : `Khadija, Jibril (the angel charged with communicating the Divine Revelation from Allah the Glorious to His Messengers) is sending you greetings’, and in others it is said: ‘Muhammad, forward greetings to Khadija from her Lord (i.e. from Allah).’” [11]
Abu Huraira, r.a., narrates that the Prophet of Allah s.a.w.s.., said: “The four best women on Dunya are: Mariam Bint ‘Imran, (Asiya) Bint Muzahim - the wife of Fir’awn, Khadija Bint Khuwailid and Fatima Bint Muhammad.” [12]

Al-Bukhari and Muslim recorded that once the angel Jibril came to the Prophet s.a.w.s. and charged him with forwarding greetings of Allah to Khadija and give her a good news of a castle prepared for her in the Jannah. [13]

Words of a special regard with which the Prophet s.a.w.s. was showing his love and respect for Khadija were on occasions taken with jealousy by his other wives. Aisha tells about that: “I have never felt so much jealousy towards anybody as I did towards Khadija, even though I did not live with her. That was because the Prophet s.a.w.s. used to mention her so frequently. Moreover, on occasions he would sacrifice a sheep and distribute its meat among Khadija’s friends.” [14]

In another tradition it is reported that Aisha said: “When the Prophet would mention Khadija, he used to commend her a lot. One day I felt very jealous, and I could not resist but saying: ‘Just how much do you mention that toothless old lady! And Allah has given you better than that!’ ‘No!’ – replied the Prophet – ’Allah has not blessed me with a wife better than her! She believed me when many chose not to; she affirmed the Truth I was spreading when many belied me; she was supporting my mission with her wealth at the time when others rejected that; with her Allah gave me children, and did not do it with other women!” [15]

Khadija, r.a., passed away in Ramadan, in the tenth year of the Revelation, shortly after the mushriks lifted their blockade from the Muslims, about three years before Hijra from Makah to Medina. Due to the severity of the trials, the Prophet named that year ‘Aamul-huzn (The year of the sorrow).
Ghusl on Khadija was performed by Ummu Ajman, the Prophet’s maid inherited from his father, [16] and Ummul-Fadl, the wife of his uncle Abbas. The Prophet himself lowered her body into the grave, without offering Salatul-Janaza, which had not yet been prescribed at the time. She was buried on the hill of Al-Hajun, above Makah. [17]

2. Sawda bint Zam'a was the second wife of the Prophet. He married her in the month of Shawwal, the tenth year of his prophethood. Before becoming his wife, Sawda was married to Sakran Ibn ‘Amr. Her husband died after returning from exile from Abbysinia, and so she stayed without a provider. That left her with three choices: to return to her family where she would be exposed to ill-treatment and temptations because of her religion, to be a burden to the society as a widow, or to mary a person from other than her social status which, also, was not an adequate option. The Prophet s.a.w.s. married her and that way, offering her his companionship, protected her religion and honour.

3. Aisha, Abu Bakr’s daughter, was the only wife of the Prophet s.a.w.s. whom he married as a virgin. All other wives of his had been previously married, and their husbands either died or got killed in a battle. The marriage with Aisha was not contemplated due to her very young age. However, on one occasion, after Khadija’s death, Hawlah Bint Hakim, the wife of Uthman Ibn Maz’un, came to the Prophet and asked him: “O Prophet of Allah, would you like to get married?” The Prophet s.a.w.s asked: ‘With whom?” She answered: “Do you wish a girl, which has never married (bikr), or a woman which has been in marriage (sayyib)?’ “Who is the girl?” asked the Prophet. “Aisha, the daughter of the dearest person to you (i.e. Abu Bakr)”, Havla replied. “And who is the woman who was married before?”, was the next question of the Prophet s.a.w.s. “Sawda Bint Zam’a”, answered Hawla. Upon that, the Prophet s.a.w.s. instructed Hawla to go and ask for their hands on his behalf. [18]

After that, the Prophet s.a.w.s. began seeing Aisha in his dreams. Aisha herself reported the Prophet s.a.w.s. as telling her about that: ”Three times you appeared to me in a dream. After that, the angel brought you secretly to me in a silken cloth and said to me: ‘This is your wife.’ When I uncovered your face and realized that it was you, I told you: ‘When it is from Allah, let it be.’” [19]

The afore-mentioned narrative makes it plain that the Prophet s.a.w.s. married Aisha by the dictate of the Revelation, that is to say, it was ordained so. This is why her marriage to the Prophet was specific. The Prophet married her as a young girl, with the approval of her father Abu Bakr. That happened in the month of Shawwal, in the eleventh year of his prophethood, one year after the Prophet’s marriage to Sawda, and two years and five months before Hijra. Because Aisha at that time was not mature accoording to Shari’ah, she remained at the house of her father. Only when she reached the age of bulugh (maturity), she was brought to the house of the Prophet s.a.w.s. in Medina. It was in the month of Shawwal, seven months after Hijra, when the Prophet’s masjid had already been erected. Many islamic scholars say that Aisha was the most knowledgable woman in the area of Fiqh, the rules of Shari’ah, and generally the most educated muslim lady at the time. [20]

In connection with the Prophet’s marriage to Aisha, who was very young at the time, the enemies of Islam have raised numerous objections and unleashed many attacks on Islam and the Prophet s.a.w.s. Such attaccks have not seized up to this time. We are witnesses of the most blastfemious caricatures appearing in some western countries. In this respect, we consider as very essential to refer to the following facts:
First, the marriage of young persons of that time should be looked at in the context of that historic and cultural milieu. In fact, the practise of marying young girls was quite ordinary and widespread at that time, and therefore nobody took note of that, not even the Prophet’s most bitter opponents. It is well known that the Prophet’s adversaries from among the idolworshippors (mushriks) were coming up with all kinds of accusations against him. They were quick to use every possible opportunity to attack him and denounce his mission. Biographical literature abounds in reports of that nature. Nevertheless, there was no any record of a single reproach because of his marriage to the virgin Aisha. At that time, to marry a virgin was quite a normal occurance. This is a very relevant fact, which should be kept in mind when the marriage of the Prophet with Aisha is spoken about. Consequently, the cultural and historic contexts should be considered when attempting to understand that part of life of the Prophet of Allah, which, when observed from the point of view of our time, can and, unfortunately, often is interpreted malevolently.

Second, it is necessary to point out that Aisha r.a., even though she was very young at the time of her marriage with the Prophet, was mature according to the Shari’ah. The reason for which she did not enter the home of the Prophet right after she was given to him was because, according to the Shari’ah, it is not permissible to live the marital life with a woman who has not yet had her first menstruation. Islamic teaching stipulate that physical maturity of male depends on his first polution and in the case of female it is the first menstruation. Therefore, Aisha was at the age of maturity at the time when her marriage with the Prophet was consummated.

Third, the Prophet’s marriage to such a young Aisha was supposed, besides some other objectives, to enable her to spend her young age with the Prophet in order for her to be brought up and educated under his guidance and thus to grow into a highly capable and competent teacher and educator who will, almost a half of the century later, teach and educate many generations. In the relevant historic literature it is stated that the Prophet s.a.w.s. left this world in the eleventh year of Hijra[21] and Aisha passed away in the year fifty-seven. It means that she outlived him little less than a half of the century during which time she was actively participating in educating new generations, to prepare them for spreading the mission of islam. The prominent biographer and historiograph Ibn Hajar al-Asqalanii says in his capital work Takriibut-Tahziib, in the section on biography of Aisha, that “she was the most expert woman in the area of Fiqh, the knowledge of the Shari’ah rules, and generally understanding of the Religion.” [22] This fact is also very relevant for those who want to understand why the Prophet married Aisha while she was so young.

4. Hafsa, the daughter of Umar ibn al-Hattab was married to Hunais Ibn as-Sahmi before becoming the Prophet’s wife. After she became a widow, her father Umar offered her in marriage to Uthman ibn Affan, but he politely declined and recommended instead Abu Bakr. As Abu Bakr also showed no interest, Umar then went to the Prophet of Allah to complain. The Prophet answered by accepting to marry Hafsa himself in order to relieve his good friend of his worry and to erase from his heart an impression that nobody wants his daughter. That marriage took place in the third year of Hijra.

5. Zainab bint Huzaima, was allso known under the nickname Ummul-masaakiin (Mother of the poor) due to her enormous care towards orphans and needy people. The Prophet s.a.w.s. married her out of great admiration and respect for her and her hard work for general welfare of those less fortunate. Before her marriage to him, Zainab was married to ‘Ubaid ibn Harith, who died as a martyr in the battle of Uhud. The Prophet took her in marriage in the fourth year of Hijra, when she was about sixty years old. But, their marriage was short-lived, because she passed away after just about two to three months.

6. Umm Salamah al-Mahzumiyyah[23] was married to Abu Salamah ibn Abdul Asad before becoming one of the wives of the Prophet. At the time she was a quite mature lady, and with the underaged children. Her former husband succumbed to the wounds received in the Battle of Uhud. Umm Salamah was trully sad to have lost him. Many men asked her hand in marriage, including Abu Bakr r.a., but she rejected all the marrital proposals, most likely out of concern for her children and due to her sorrow for her late husband. The Prophet s.a.w.s. took pity in her and married her, promising to look after her orphans. That happened in the fourth year of Hijra.

7. Zainab bint Jahsh was the daughter of the Prophet’s aunt on his father’s side. Prior to that, the Prophet s.a.w.s. had married her to his adopted son Zaid Ibn Haritha. Later, Allah s.a.w.t. abrogated the custom of adopting children with all the consequential things resulting from that. It should be pointed out that the marriage between Zaid and Zainab did not work and ended in divorce. Allah S.W.T. ordered His Prophet to marry Zainab, the wife of his former adopted son, and thus affirm practically abrogation of the custom of adoption. Kur`an says about that: “And, as Zaid lived with her and then divorced her, We married her to you…” (Al-Ahzab, 37). The Prophet’s marriage to Zainab occurred in the month of Dhul-Qa’dah, the fifth year of Hijra.

8. Juwayriyya Bint Harith was the daughter of a tribal chief. She was assigned to the Prophet s.a.w.s. as a part of the war spoils, acquired from the tribe Bany Mustaliq, after the military campaign against that tribe in the month of Sha’ban, in the sixth year of Hijra. As the Prophet s.a.w.s. was very considerate and sensitive towards those who were inflicted with humiliation (of captivity), after having enjoyed honor and reputation, he married her soon. That way she was saved from a possibility of being taken as a servant, and at the same time his move had another positive impact: Muslims freed the captives from the Bany Mustaliq tribe now that they became the in-laws of the Prophet of Allah. Following that, all the members of that tribe embraced Islam, and the Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyya turned gratifying and rewarding.

9. Umm Habiba Ramla bint Abu Sufyan was Abu Sufyan’s daughter. Her first marriage was to ‘Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh al-Asadi. She embraced Islam early, together with her husband, and as a result left her family. After that, she migrated with her husband to Abbysinia. But, a short time later, while still being in Abbysinia, her husband converted to christianity and soon died. Ramla consequently stayed in exile alone and unprotected. When the Prophet s.a.w.s. learnt about that, he sent a letter to the king Najashi, who had already accepted Islam himself, in which he authorized him to contract marriage between him and Ramla in his absence, which Najashi did. On that occasion, Najashi handed to Ramla mahr in the amount of 4 thousand golden dinars. Umm Habiba is believed to have received the largest mahr of all of his wives. The Prophet married her to help her overcome her loneliness and at the same time to establish a link with her father Abu Sufyan, the leding chief of Makah.

10. Safiyya bint Huyayy ibn Ahtab, the daughter of the chief of the Banu Nadir tribe, was a part of the war spoils, following the military campaign on Khaybar. Dihya al-Kalbi, whom she was offered, approached the Prophet and said to him: “She is the tribe’s princess and beauty. She should not be assigned to anybody but you.” As the Prophet was quite considerate towards those captives who had previously enjoyed a high social status, he embraced her as a free woman and offered to marry her. She accepted his offer and thus in the seventh year of Hijra, after the capture of Khaybar, she became his wife.

11. Maymuna bint al-Harith was the last woman whom the Prophet s.a.w.s. married. That happened in the seventh year of Hijra, on the occasion of the performing of the so-called Additional umra (‘Umrah al-qadaa`).[24]
It is evident, therefore, that the majority of the wives of the Prophet of Allah lived signifficantly longer than he. That way they had an opportunity to give a huge contribution in spreading the Islamic call and educating many Muslim generations. The well-known scholar and biographer Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalaani mentions that the Prophet’s wives died in the following years of Hijra: Aisha in 57., Sawda in 55., Hafsa in 45., Umm Salama in 62., Juwayriyya in 50., Ramla Bint Abi Sufyan (Umm Habiba) in 42. or 44., Zainab Bint Jahsh in 20., Safiyya Bint Huyayy in 36., Maymuna bint-al-Harith in 51. year of Hijra. [25]

Instead of a conclusion
On the basis of the presented information, recorded in the relevant historic literature, it is clear that the Prophet Muhammad’s multiple marriages had much deeper meaning than mere satisfaction of physical urge. In fact, the claim that the Prophet married that number of women to gratify his sexual desires makes no sense whatsoever, because he spent his younger age in marriage with one wife, the honorable Khadija, who was full fifteen years his senior. That kind of claim, which is so detested and abhorring to Muslims, has been rejected even by unbiased non-Muslim intellectual circles. Annie Besant, the author of the eminent work The Life and the Teachings of Muhammad, expressed some beautiful thoughts, which we are presenting here instead of our own conclusion: “It is impossible to study and understand how this great Prophet of Arab origin lived and taught others, without the feeling of admiration towards him as one of the most notable messengers. Although, what I am going to say in this contexts may be nothing new to many readers, I can not but state that each time I read something in connection with this, I feel all over again the added esteem towards this admirable teacher. Can somebody say that a young man of 25, in the prime of life, marries Khadija - the woman much older than he, and remains faithful to her until the age of 50, only to marry now younger wives for physical gratification, rather than for other much more meaningful reasons, without all of this having some deeper sense? If one examines the other marriages of the Prophet, one will find no difficulty to conclude that each one of them was motivated by either some alliance for the benefit of his followers and his religion, or for realizing some objectives beneficial to his companions, or for reason to offer a protection to a woman who was in dire need of that.” [26]

Translated from Bosnian:
Tajib Pasanbegovic


8) See: Ibn Hisham, The Prophet’s Autobiography, p. 281.
9) Ibn Hisham mentions the names of wifes the Prophet had no intimite intercourse and says: "They are, Asma bint ann-Nu'man el-Kindiyya, whom he returned to her family after having noticed that she had been sick with leprosy; and 'Umra bint Jazeed el-Kilabiyya. The latter had left kufr and when she was brought before the Prophet of Allah, she invoked Allah for help, upon which the Prophet s.a.w.s. said: 'What is protected by Allah is beyond reach!', and returned her to her relatives." See: Ibn Hisham, the mentioned work, p. 284. In Islamic literature that woman is also known as El-Musta'iza (The one who was asking for protection of Allah with His Prophet).
10) The Prophet , s.a.v.s., had seven children: three sons (Kasim, Abdullah, whose nicknames were Tahir and Tayyib, and Ibrahim) and four daughters (Zainab, Ruqayya, Umm Kulthum and Fatima). All the children, except Ibrahim, came from the marriage with Khadija, r.a. Like every other detail from and about his life and practise, the Prophet’s children were also the subject of research by the islamic scholars. More details about this can be found in the work of: Sa'id Harun 'Ashur, Nisa' al-Nabiyyi, Siyarun wa Qadaya, Maktaba al-adab, Cairo, 1996.; Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Al-Isabah fi tamyeez al-sahabah (together with the worl Al-Isti'ab fi ma'rifa al-ashab from Ibn ‘Abdulbarr, which was printed on its margines); Dar al-kitab al-'arabi, Beirut, with no year of publishing mentioned; Muhammed Muwaffaq Sulayma, The Daughters of the Prophet, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, Novi Pazar, 2004.
11) See: Sa'id Harun 'Ashur, Nisa' al-Nabyyi, Siyarun wa Qadaya, p. 31.
12) Transmitted by: Al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, hadis #. 3.878; Muslim in his Sahih, chapter on Virtues of Khadija.
13) See: Al-Bukhari and Muslim’s Sahih, chapter on Virtues of Khadija. See also: Al-Timidhi, Sunen, hadith #. 3.876.
14) Recorded by Al-Tirmidhi in his Sunan, in hadith # 3.875, chapter on Virtues of Khadija. See: Al-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Dar al-hadith, Cairo, V, p. 702.
15) Hadith recorded by Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal in his Musnad.
16) Her name is Baraka, and her nickname is Umm Ayman. In some of the seerahs it is mentioned that she brought up the Prophet Muhammad, s.a.w.s., following death of his mother Amina. On the day of his wedding with Khadija, the Prophet freed Baraka, who was then married to a man from Yathrib. From that marriage came Baraka’s son Ayman, and that’s how she came to be known Umm Ayman – Ayman’s mother.
17) See: Sa'id Harun 'Ashur, the above mentioned work of his, p. 30.
18) The narration transmitted by Ahmad in his Musnad.
19) Reported by Al-Bukhari and Muslim in their respective Sahihs, Fi fadail al-sahaba, Fadl ‘Aisha.
20) Al-Mubarakfuri, The Sealed Necta, p., 431.
21) The Prophet , s.a.w.s., departed from this world on Monday, before noon, on 12th of the Rabi' al-Awwal, in the 11th year of Higra, which corresponds to June 8., the year 632. according to the Gregorian calendar. See: Safvet Halilović, Sira – Zivotopis Allahovog Poslanika, Zenica-Novi Pazar, 2007., p. 269.
22) See: Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyya, Beirut, 1993., II, p. 651. Ibn Hajar's personal wording in Arabic is: „Kanat afqah al-nisa' mutlaqan.“
23) Her name is Hind bint Abu Umayya, even though she is better known in the Islamic literature by her nickname Umm Salama (Salama's mother). By that nickname she was known even after her marriage to the Prophet, s.a.w.s.
24) See: Al-Mubarakfuri, Al-Rahiq al-makhtum, p. 473-474. Compare with: The Sealed Nectari, p. 431-432.
25) See: Ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, the chapter on Women (Bab al-nisa’) , II, p. 628-685.
26) Annie Besant, The Life and Teachings of Muhammad, Madras, 1932. p. 4.

• Muhammad Rawwas Qal'ahji: The Personality of the Last Prophet of Allah, translated from Arabic by Safvet Halilovic and Mehmed Kico, Sarajevo-Zenica, 2006.
• Muhammad 'Ali as-Sabuni: Tafseer ayat al-ahkam, Dar al-sabuni, place and the year of publishing not mentioned.
• Dr. Mustafa As-Siba'i: Zena izmedu serijatskog i svjetovnog prava, translation to Bosnian by a group of translaters, Zenica, 2004.
• Sa'id Harun 'Ashur: Nisa al-Nabiyy, Siyarun wa qadaya, Maktaba al-adab, Kairo, 1996.
• Al-Bukhari: Sahihu-l-Buhari (with Ibn Hajar’s commentary Fath al-Bari), Dar al-Rayyan, 2nd edition, Kairo, 1987.
• Muslim: Sahih Muslim (with Nawawi’s commentary), Dar al-fiyha, Damask and Saad Suubbar, Riyad, without the year of publishing mentioned.
• At-Tirmidhi: Sunan, Dar al-hadith, Kairo, witout the year of publishing mentioned.
• Ibn Hisham: Poslanikov zivotopis, from Arabic into Bosnian translated by Mustafa Prljaca, Bemust, Sarajevo, 1998.
• Safiyyurrahman al-Mubarakfuri: Al-Rahiq al-makhtum, Jam'iyyatu ihya al-turath al-islami, Kuvait, 1994.
• Safiyyurrahman el-Mubarakfuri: Zapecaceni dzennetski napitak, from Arabic translated into Bosnian by Subhija Hadzimejlic-Skenderovic, Sarajevo, 2001.
• Safvet Halilovic, Sira – Zivotopis posljednjeg Allahovog Poslanika, Zenica-Novi Pazar, 2007.
• Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani: Al-Isaba fi temyizi al-sahaba, Dar al-kitab al-'arabi, Beirut, the year of publishing not mentioned.
• Ibn Hajar al-'Asqalani, Taqrib al-Tahdhib, Dar al-kutub al-'ilmiyya, Beirut, 1993.
• Ibn 'Abd al-Barr: Al-Isti'ab fi ma'rifa al-ashab (printed on the margines of the work Al-Isaba fi tamyiz al-sahaba), Dar al-kitab al-'arabi, Beirut, the year of publishing not mentioned.
• Muhammad Muvaffaq Sulayma: Kcerke Vjerovjesnika, sallallahu alejhi ve sellem, Novi Pazar, 2004.
• Muhammed Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti: Hazreti Aiša, majka pravovjernih, translated into Bosnian by the group of translators, Munchen, 2001.
• Enes Karic: Muhammed, a.s., vazniji aspekti ljudskog posvjedocavanja njegova zivota i djela, the preface to the Bosnian issue of Ibn Hisham's Sira (The Prophet's life), Bemust, Sarajevo, 1998.
• Annie Besant: The Life and Teachings of Muhammad, Madras, 1932.
• Hamid Tahir: Islam izmedu istine i optuzbe, translated from Arabic into Bosnian by prof. dr. Omer Nakicevic, Sarajevo, 2004.

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